Return to Freedom — In the News

Below is a collection of media, articles, and press interviews about Return to Freedom. If you are a member of the media and would like to arrange an interview or visit to one of our locations, please email us or call (805) 737-9246.

For immediate response to urgent news contact Neda Demayo.

For magazine or media, contact Wendy Wilkinson (Wilkinson PR) or call: (719) 685-1723.

Click here to read OUR press releases, but below is news ABOUT us.


Return to Freedom’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary in Lompoc to celebrate stallion’s 28th birthday and opening day on Saturday

A dual celebration for the start of its summer program season and the 28th birthday of Spirit — the stallion that served as muse and model for the animated film “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron” — will take place from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday at Return to Freedom’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary, 4115 Jalama Road in Lompoc.

Encounters with Spirit

Visitors meet Spirit the horse at the Return to Freedom: Wild Horse Conservation sanctuary in Lompoc, where Spirit’s 28th birthday was celebrated Saturday with live music, vendors and food. Spirit inspired the animated movie “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron” (2002). As shown in one of these photos, visitors hiked Saturday at the 300-acre home for wild horses and burros. For more information, go to

Return to Freedom applauds recommended funding increase for wild horse management, calls on Congress to press for fertility control

LOMPOC, Calif., Dec. 22, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation on Thursday thanked Congress for recommending increased funding for the oversight of wild horses and burros on public lands.

The $1.7 trillion fiscal Omnibus Appropriations bill approved Thursday by the Senate would provide $148 million for the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program – an $11 million increase.

Veterinarians speak up to stop slaughter of US horses

More than 200 veterinarians have added their names to a letter sent to the US Government in support of permanently prohibiting the slaughter of American horses for human consumption.

Coordinated by several animal and equine advocacy groups, the letter to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary expressed support for the Save America’s Forgotten Equines Act, HR 3355/S. 2732.

Young Rider Magazine Features RTF’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary, Work to Preserve Rare Strains





Reno Gazette Journal (November 2, 2015) — Bidding tops $6,500 for 15-year-old wild horse Sarge. Bidding has reached unprecedented heights for a battered old horse at the National Wild Horse and Burro Center at Palomino Valley, just north of Reno. As of this writing, bidding for the 15-year-old stud stallion stands at $6,530, based on 467 bids. Read More


Nevada Dept. of Agriculture Issues Statement About Horse Gathers in South Reno (October 28, 2014)

Yahoo Travel (October 23, 2014) — Get Up Close and Personal With Wild Horses at This Sanctuary in Santa Barbara. Read More

Wendy Wilkinson (July 5, 2014) — You may know him best as Dr. John Carter, but Noah Wyle’s as comfortable on the ranch as his character was in the ER. “I was profoundly impressed by founder Neda DeMayo’s passion for wild horses with no tangible benefit to her for the tireless work she does,” Wyle says. “It’s inspiring and makes me want to get involved with the sanctuary by helping to publicize her cause.” Noah Wyle: Cowboys and Indians, April 2010. Read More

Queen Latifa Show (April 22, 2014) — Wendie Malick plays “What’s That? Old MacDonald Edition” for her favorite cause, the Return to Freedom: American Wild Horse Preservation and Sanctuary. View Here

The View (April 6, 2014) — Wendie Malick and Hot In Cleveland Cast shout out to Return to Freedom; sponsor stallions for Betty White’s 92nd Birthday! View Clip on YouTube

Santa Barbara News-Press (February 9, 2014) — Actor Robert Redford helping horse sanctuary in Lompoc. For some 16 years, Neda DeMayo has worked tirelessly in her quest to preserve the last of America’s wild horses and the open lands on which they run. She has lobbied politicians, been a relentless fundraiser, and has given her life to a heartfelt advocacy that led to the creation of the 300-acre Return to Freedom Wild Horse Preservation and Sanctuary in Lompoc. Read More


San Ynez Valley News (September 24, 2013) — A group of horseback riders and filmmakers will make their way to the Missions of the Central Coast this week as part of a state-wide ride they are planning to turn into a documentary. The California Mission Ride began last year with the northern trek, during which the group visited the missions between Sonoma and San Miguel over a one-month period. Read More

Santa Barbara Independent (September 3, 2013) — Founder of local Wild Horse Sanctuary joins actress Wendie Malick, Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and Wild Horse Advocates at a Press Conference, September 4 in Reno, NV, to demand that the Bureau of Land Management change its costly and traumatic wild horse roundup program. Read More

The Examiner (July 23, 2013) — Robert Redford’s foundation joins federal lawsuit to block horse slaughter: In Albuquerque, NM, on Monday, the New Mexico Environmental Department refused to renew the discharge permit for waste to Valley Meat Company of Roswell. The company, once a cattle slaughter plant, has now been converted to a horse slaughter facility and plans to open on August 5 despite huge opposition. Read More

HorseTalk (July 23, 2013) — Mustang roundups reduced, but advocates still angry. The Bureau of Land Management intends to nearly halve its pace of removals for the 2013 financial year, but warns that the situation may change as drought conditions bite. Read More

The Republic (July 22, 2013) — Nevada agency requests information from advocacy groups to manage Virginia Range horses: The Nevada Department of Agriculture wants to hear from nonprofit groups on developing a wild horse management plan for the Virginia Range southeast of Reno. The agency said Monday its goal is a cooperative agreement with an organization to manage and sustain the horses at healthy levels while preserving public safety. Read More

The Santa Barbara Independent (June 28, 2013) — Return to Freedom Leads Fight to Save Nation’s Mustangs: A national grassroots sign-on campaign to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, to stop federal wild horse roundups and secure lasting protection for these iconic animals, is being spearheaded by Santa Barbara County’s Return to Freedom (RTF) and the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), a national coalition RTF launched in 2004 to create a strong grassroots base and a unified platform for the wild horse issue. Read More

Global Animal (July 19, 2013) — U.S. Saddles Up For Horse Slaughter, Activists Say ‘Neigh’: On August 2, a judge will decide whether to issue a temporary restraining order preventing horse processing plants from opening in the U.S. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) along with other animal protection groups are currently suing the USDA, claiming the agency failed to conduct the necessary environmental review before authorizing horse slaughterhouses. Not only do 80 percent of Americans oppose horse slaughter, but activists also maintain the U.S. government could spend millions of taxpayer dollars to operate horse slaughter facilities, only to have Congress eventually terminate the process. Read More

Santa Barbara Independent (June 26, 2013) — Return to Freedom Leads Fight to Save Nation’s Mustangs: A national grassroots sign-on campaign to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, to stop federal wild horse roundups and secure lasting protection for these iconic animals, is being spearheaded by Santa Barbara County’s Return to Freedom (RTF) and the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), a national coalition RTF launched in 2004 to create a strong grassroots base and a unified platform for the wild horse issue. Read More

Baroque Horse Magazine (June 2013) — Spanish Influence in the American Wild Horse: The Spanish Barb was once the most prevalent horse in the Americas. Today the bloodlines that remain are considered critically endangered. In much the way that the buffalo was spared extinction when a handfull of ranchers kept small herds on private land, individuals and small groups throughout the country have sought to preserve the horse that carried the missionary, the cowboy, the rancher, the Indian and the homesteader across the Americas. Read More

SF Gate (April 25, 2013) — Wild horse encounters on California sanctuaries: California’s wide-open spaces harbor several sanctuaries that care for wild horses and burros who would otherwise be slaughtered to reduce populations on public lands. The sanctuaries’ missions generally are to find good homes for some of the equines — descendants of the animals that helped build the country — while providing a haven where the rest can continue to live in the wild. Read More

The Horse (March 20, 2013) — State of Nevada, Wild Horse Advocates Reach Agreement: Wild horse advocates will get the first option to purchase horses collected from Nevada’s Virginia Range by that state’s Department of Agriculture under an agreement struck between the agency and Return to Freedom, Inc. (RTF), a California-based wild horse advocacy group and sponsor of the American Wild Horse Preservation CampaignRead More

The Examiner (March 4, 2013) — Feds love wolves, hate wild horses: Horse meat has been showing up all over Europe, from Ikea’s Swedish meatballs to British lasagna. Meanwhile in Oklahoma, the state legislature is poised to legalize horse slaughter, and the Bureau of Land Management is meeting there today to discuss the management of wild horses under its care. Read More

Elko Daily Free Press (February 25, 2013) — Saving America’s Mustangs hopes proposed eco-sanctuary alleviates horse holding problem: Facing a horse holding predicament, the Bureau of Land Management will soon find itself with an abundance of animals running on allotted rangeland and long-term holding facilities crammed to capacity. Read More

Santa Ynez Valley News (February 21, 2013) — Places to go; Things to do: Fri., March 22: 5:30 p.m. “Words to Live By” speaker series at Babi’s Tasting Room, 448 Bell St., Suite B, Los Alamos. Read More


Westlake Malibu Lifestyle (March 2012) — Neda’s life-long work as an advocate for wild horses took on a significantly positive turn when she established the Return to Freedom wild horse sanctuary in 1997 on 300 acres near Lompoc, California, to serve as a model for minimally intrusive wild horse management solutions. Read More


Studio City Patch (September 8, 2011) — I first became acquainted with Return to Freedom, the wild mustang rescue and sanctuary, when I saw their float in the Valley Village Independence Day Parade. Board members Pat Hines and Diana DeMayo Brown were in a big pick-up truck pulling a hay wagon full of kids and supporters. VIDEO Read More

Horses in Art (Summer 2011) — For anyone who has listened to national news in recent months, the plight of wild horses in the West has risen to a new level of public awareness. Aerial roundups have resulted in unnecessary deaths of younger and weakened animals and the holding pens retaining these hapless beasts are at capacity. Read More

EquiTrekking (May 11, 2011) — Being an equine intern at Return to Freedom in Lompoc, California, or “the ranch”, as it affectionately became known to me and fellow office/event planning intern, Jordan, made me realize early on that if an equine career was something that I wanted, I was going to have to put everything I had into making it a success. Read More

The Week (April 22, 2011) — Return to Freedom is a wild horse sanctuary that provides a haven for nearly 200 wild horses and burros on 300 acres in Lompoc, CA. Because wild horses live in tightly bonded family social groups and can die if separated from them, Return to Freedom has a policy of keeping intact the herds it rescues. Read More


Cowboys & Indians (July 2010) — In addition to providing a safe haven for wild horses in need, the Return to Freedom American Wild Horse Sanctuary maintains a preservation program to protect some of the most threatened genetic strains of wild horses, including the Colonial Spanish Horse. Read More

Coco Eco Magazine (May-June 2010) — “I admit that it wasn’t until I was approached by our Fashion Editor to do this issue on the Wild Mustang that I had an awareness of what is happening to the American wild horse.” Read More

EquiTrekking (May 26, 2010) — In the much debated struggle to save America’s wild horses and burros, it appears that the equines are losing, but it won’t be without a fight. The remaining herds, amounting to approximately 28,000 free ranging animals in 10 states, a dramatic reduction over the last twenty years, are in danger of disappearing as a natural resource wherever they still roam. Read More

The Lompoc Record (April 13, 2010) — Actor W.C. Fields once defined horse sense as the thing that keeps horses from betting on people. But in the hills near Lompoc, there is a group of people who have been a sure bet for horses across the West… Read More

Examiner (March 23, 2010) — It might seem unbelievable, but there are wild horses just a scenic drive north of LA. Return to Freedom American Wild Horse Sanctuary in Lompoc, California offers unique tours and educational experiences, as well as the opportunity to be a part of the movement to save the American Wild Horse. Read More


Voice of America News. Includes Audio Interview (October 31, 2009) — At the turn of the last century, more than 2-million wild horses roamed free across public lands in the American west. But decades of poaching and culling decimated the herds, and by 1971, when they were granted federal protection through the “Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act,” there were only around 20,000 left. Read More


The Lompoc Record (November 11, 2007) — If you want to know what it is like not to be free, have a look at DreamWorks’ animated movie Spirit, Stallion of the Cimarron. Or visit Return to Freedom, Neda DeMayo’s sanctuary for wild horses and burros 4 miles from Lompoc on Highway 1. Read More

Santa Barbara News-Press (August 10, 2007) — Neda DeMayo walks up to Taj Radda, a gray Arabian horse now in her teens. Without ropes or a harness, Ms. DeMayo clicks her tongue softly and gently coaxes the mare to trot and follow her around in a wide circle and stop when she signals. Read More


Central Coast Magazine (June 2006) — The debate over whether American wild horses are considered native wildlife, indigenous to North America, or “feral,” like weeds, is the absurd crux of a debate that could ultimately determine the fate of the species. Read More

People Magazine (2006) — Listen well and you will hear it: a low, distant rumble like thunder. It is the sound of a herd of wild horses, but what it really is, Neda DeMayo will tell you, is the sound of America. Read More


Bild der Frau (November 2005) — Die Ranch Return to Freedom liegt auBerhalb der kleinen Stadt Lompoc, Kalifornien. Read More

California Riding Magazine (May 2005) — After looking a wild horse in the eye, it’s pretty hard to turn a deaf ear to threats to its existence. That premise was one of the main catalysts for Return to Freedom, where today 220 wild horses enjoy the closest possible approximation to a free-roaming life on the range. Read More

Living History (April 2005) — With its Baroque ancestry reflected in every flash of the hoof and arch of the neck, the Sulphur Horse is Spanish grace and wild grit thrown together. Read More

NPR Radio Interview (March 10, 2005) — Tucked into the omnibus-spending bill passed in December was the repeal of a 34-year-old law that prohibited the slaughter of wild horses, including mustangs. Now, horse lovers are incensed, and the dispute divides cattlemen and wild horse advocates. Read More

Grit (March 2005) — I was surrounded by horses. There were Caballine horses, Cerbat mustangs, Sulphurs, Curlies, and Kigers feeding on rolling green pastures. Some paid no attention to my presence; others followed close by, occasionally nudging me. Read More

Teen Newsweek (February 14, 2005) — Corralled in a federal holding pen at Palomino Valley, NV, a buckskin mare suddenly faces an uncertain future. The 12-year-old horse was rounded up in November as part of a federal program to humanely control the West’s mustang population. Read More


Isabella Bird (Fall 2004) — Wild horses are a diminishing fixture on the American landscape. They once numbered two million; now, there are fewer than 32,000. Six years ago, Neda Demayo realized her lifelong dream of creating a wild horse sanctuary. Read More

Lifetime (September 2004) — Loving horses is easy, Neda DeMayo believes; most people do. Of course, in the nature of love, people usually want something in return — they ride them, show them, keep them as pets. Read More